HIV/AIDS in Africa
Nigeria plans to launch the largest AIDS treatment programme in Africa using cheap generic drugs on September 1, a United Nations special envoy says. The 10 000 adults and 5 000 children who will receive a drug cocktail are just a tiny fraction of the more than 2.6 million Nigerians infected with the HIV virus. But the Nigerian government's commitment demonstrates that within Africa efforts are under way to tackle the epidemic that has infected about 26.5 million people across the continent, said Stephen Lewis, the special envoy of Secretary-General Kofi Annan for HIV/AIDS in Africa. Botswana, which has the world's highest rate of AIDS infections, will launch a treatment program using antiretroviral drugs in early 2002, he said. At the first UN conference on AIDS last month, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo warned that the prospect of extinction of the entire population of a continent looms larger and larger. He called for cancellation of Africa's debts and international help - but he also took action himself. Obasanjo sent his health minister to India a few weeks ago to negotiate with the pharmaceutical company Cipla Ltd., which makes generic AIDS drugs. In February, Cipla offered to sell a three-drug AIDS cocktail to nonprofit agencies for $350 a year per African patient - provided the patients weren't charged. The company said at the time that African governments could purchase the same drugs for $600 per patients. But the Nigerian health minister was able to negotiate a $350 a year per patient deal with Cipla, Lewis said. The Nigerian government will subsidize about 80% of the cost, but patients who receive treatment will have to pay about 1 000 naira a month, which is about $7-8 a month, Lewis said. Nigeria intends to use a six-drug regimen for 60% of the patients and a two-drug regimen for the other 40%, he said. The drugs are expected to have similar results, but the government will monitor and evaluate how patients cope with the different programs, which will be administered by Nigeria's teaching hospitals, he said. (Source: SAPA-AP, 30 July 2001)
Pharmaceutical companies must change their way of doing business to ensure that poor countries have access to essential AIDS drugs, the president of the world's largest drug company said. Henry McKinnell, CEO of Pfizer Corporation and chairman of the US industry group Pharma, said the major drug manufacturers are looking for ways to deliver the latest drugs to the poorest patients. McKinnell said that blaming high prices and patent protection for the lack of access to drugs in Africa oversimplifies the problem. Even if drug companies are willing to supply African countries with drugs at cost, or at no cost - as many have recently said they would - there are few organisations that can properly diagnose AIDS and administer the medicine, he said. Out of the 37 million people with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, about 26.5 million of them live in Africa on an average of $1,800 a year. American and European patients pay as much as $10,000 a year for the latest life-prolonging antiretroviral drugs. Activists have launched a scathing campaign demanding cheaper drugs for Africans. They have recommended that African governments adopt World Trade Organisation rules that allow a country to suspend patent laws so that generic drug manufacturers can produce the same drugs for as little as $600 per patient, per year. The pharmaceutical industry has argued that it cannot cede its intellectual property rights because the profits guaranteed under a drug patent drive innovation in new medicine. But the industry's efforts to protect its intellectual property rights in a South African court case turned into a public relations disaster, prompting a quick settlement. The case has left some bitterness. Since then, major pharmaceutical companies have announced several plans to supply certain drugs at cost, or no cost, to more than 50 countries. Critics have welcomed the apparent change in strategy at the big multinational firms, but are cautious until they see the details of the plans and the drugs actually delivered. But only so many drugs can be given away, and even when sold at cost, there is not yet enough money to pay for treating everyone. McKinnell welcomed UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's call for a $7-billion to $10-billion global fund to fight AIDS in Africa as a good start. McKinnell pointed out that because of limited diagnostic facilities, only 10% of the estimated 27 million Africans with HIV know that they are infected. Infrastructure is the key and he said drug companies would do their part. (Source: SAPA-AP, 11 June 2001)
(Abuja, Nigeria, 26 April) - United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for a major new global campaign in the fight against HIV/AIDS and a massive mobilization of new funding in a statement he delivered here today to the African Summit on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Other Related Infectious Diseases.
HIV/AIDS will have a profound effect on agriculture, mainly subsistence farming, in terms of crop production, labour and delivery, research has found.
The HIV epidemic might be stabilising in sub-Saharan Africa, but in South Africa it is still growing
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Gives $25 Million to Harvard School of Public Health for AIDS Prevention in Nigeria
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has granted $25 million to the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) in collaboration with the Harvard Center for International Development for a prevention program in Nigeria, the most populous nation on the African continent. The Nigerian AIDS Prevention Initiative will begin by profiling the nature of HIV infection in Nigeria. Researchers will then target prevention programs as HSPH has done successfully for many years in Senegal where infection rates have remained stable at two percent. Training for Nigerian scientists and policy makers to devise AIDS prevention strategies and to build the country’s epidemiological and laboratory capacities will be performed jointly by HSPH and colleagues at the Center for International Development at the Kennedy School of Government. HSPH researchers will also work with Nigerian colleagues to standardize screening and data collection, so that the information gathered about seroprevalence is accurate. They will also help upgrade laboratory facilities for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the two states chosen and will provide STD treatment, particularly among commercial sex workers, and determine the impact of prevention on HIV spread. The initiative will also provide screening for pregnant women and antiretroviral treatment for those who test positive. Findings on levels of infection among these women and on the strains of HIV identified will be shared with Nigerian colleagues and will inform public education efforts.
Manto Tshabalala-Msimang spoke at the launch of the South African Mayors' Chapter on HIV/AIDS in Durban, on Tuesday, and indicated that antiretroviral therapy was not the only answer to the fight against HIV/AIDS.